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When do French people really retire and what is the average pension?

We look at the latest figures available which show women work longer than men

We look at the age people actually retire in practice in France and what the average monthly pension income is Pic: Cozine / Shutterstock

Yesterday (January 19) more than one million French people (Interior ministry figures) took to the streets to protest against a government plan to extend the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030 at a pace of three months per year. 

Here we look at the age people actually retire in practice in France and what the average monthly pension income is.

In fact French people retire on average a few months later than the legal minimum of 62 [combining men and women], according to a 2022-study from a government statistics laboratory with women working the longest.

Read more: France strikes: Will they continue? Will they work? What experts say

The data, based on 2020 statistics, shows that on average people retired at 62 years and four months. 

It also shows that the 16.4 million French retirees living in France then received pension income on average of €1,400 net per month - slightly higher than France’s current minimum-wage of €1,353.07 net.

Note that in France there is no universal state pension level. People receive a pension amount usually as a percentage of their 25 best years of working. The current pension reforms want to set a minimum pension monthly rate of €1,200 - up from the current €1,100.

Average retirement age has been increasing

The average retirement age has increased by one year and nine months since 2010 while pension income in real terms has decreased by 0.7% since 2015. But the figures greatly vary depending on a person’s gender, profession or eventual additional pensions.

The statistics were published by the Direction de la Recherche, des Études, de l'Évaluation et des Statistiques (Drees), a statistics laboratory under the supervision of several French  ministers, and took an overall look at the retirement system from post-World War Two up until 2020.

The Connexion looked at the 300-page study and reviews the disparities between the evolution of the retirement age and the level of pension. 

The age factor

French men living in France retire on average at 62 while French women retire six months later. Both levels have increased by five months since 2016, slowing the trend in increase  observed since 2010.

The retirement age increases when the 1.6 million French people living abroad are included, raising the age to 63 years and four months on average when statistics for men and women are combined. This is a year later than in 2012. 

People who have worked at the transport firms RATP or SNCF - two public companies known for having strong social advantages for workers - retire around 56 to 59

The number of people that retire at 61 has decreased by 47 points for generations born between 1949 and 1959. 

In 2010, 64% of people were retired by the age of 60 and 76% were retired by 61. In comparison, in 2020, only 19% retired by age 60 and 29% by age 61.

All categories of French people have been retiring later since 2010. Women are represented in green, men in yellow and the national average in orange. Picture credit: Drees

The number of people retiring at 62 increased steadily between 2004 and 2013.

However some years have shown drops. Between 2004 and 2010, the average retirement age decreased by two months, the result of a government policy that looked to give earlier access to retirement to long-career workers with a financial bonus. 

This was also the result of an increase in the number of women in the workplace with more women able to retire earlier from having accumulated enough rights. 

Level of pensions

People having retired in France receive on average €1,509 gross pension income a month  (around €1,400 net). However, it increases to €1,537 net when the widower’s pension is included, an amount estimated to represent on average 62.9% of the revenue of working class people in 2020.

French people earned a gross pension of €1,509 on average in 2020 (orange.) But men (yellow) earned considerably more than women (green.) Pic: Drees

All the following figures are before tax unless stated otherwise

People having retired abroad, however, receive less at €1,402 on average as they have often accumulated fewer rights under the French system due to having worked abroad, the Drees data shows.

In 2020, French women earned on average €1,154 a month when men earned €1,931.

However, the gap reduces to 28% when the widow’s pension is included. Women generally live longer so benefit more from this than men from a widower’s allowance.

Unsurprisingly retirement pensions are on average 36 to 39% higher in Paris, the Yvelines and Hauts-de-Seine departments than the national average. They are below the national average in northern, north-eastern France, the Massif central and overseas territories. 

More than a third (37%) of all retirees received equal or less than €1,000 gross pension in 2016 - this represents 54% of all women and 16% of all men. 7% of all retirees earn more than €3,000 (this is 2% of all women and 12% of all men), the Drees data states.

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